A groom at a racehorse stables has won a pregnancy discrimination case after one of her bosses refused to get off her horse during a meeting to discuss her childcare.
Charlotte Holloway has been awarded more than £4,000 after an employment tribunal expressed disbelief over the way she was treated at the Derby-winning Durdans Stables.
Mrs Holloway was involved in a dispute with her bosses during her maternity leave that saw them deny her request to keep the same hours on her return to work.
When she visited the stables to discuss the issue, the owner’s partner – who was helping to run the business – did not dismount from her horse and the meeting was held in the stables with everyone forced to stand.
The tribunal, held virtually, heard that Ms Holloway felt she had no other choice but to resign.
She then sued her former employers for unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination and won £4,173.35 in compensation.
The hearing was told Mrs Holloway began working at Durdans in Epsom, Surrey, in October 2018.
Her employers describe the stables as “the most outstanding in Epsom from a historical, architectural and equestrian perspective” and “one of the most notable in the whole country”.
Mrs Holloway worked 21 hours a week, in a schedule that involved Saturday mornings plus full days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She avoided Mondays and Fridays as that was when her parents – who helped her with childcare – worked.
The tribunal heard that she became pregnant with her second child and this led to her being furloughed at the start of lockdown in March 2020, about three months before her baby was due.
On Feb 26 2021, she said she wanted her days and hours to remain as they were before her maternity leave.
On March 17, the stables emailed to explain that it wanted her to work on a different schedule – Thursday morning, and full days on a Friday and Sunday.
These hours were problematic for Mrs Holloway as she had arranged childcare to fit into her previous working arrangements, the tribunal said.
“She also did not want to work a whole day at a weekend with a young family, and Sunday has always been difficult for her because her husband has sporting commitments,” it said.
The stables replied to say it was not “reasonably practicable” to allow her to return to the same position and on the same specific hours and days as before.
It pointed out she had taken four weeks of extra maternity leave in addition to the initial standard period.
Mrs Holloway asked for a meeting, which took place in April, and brought her father with her.
Boss Stephen Cooper also attended the meeting at which his partner refused to get off her horse.
With no compromise on the proposed changes to her rota, Mrs Holloway resigned in May.
‘We also take account of the indignity’
The tribunal found that she had been discriminated against and unfairly sacked, concluding that the managers made it difficult for her to return because she had taken additional maternity leave.
Employment Judge Anna Corrigan said: “[The company] did not enter discussions about [her] return and days of work in a spirit of compromise.
“As a result, possible solutions in respect of [Mrs Holloway’s] working days were not explored.
“We also take account of the indignity of how [Mrs Holloway] was treated at the meeting with her father.
“We’ve never come across anything like the situation where Mr Cooper’s partner held the meeting on the horse, forcing everyone to stand.
“The [company] did not follow any process.”